This weekend Nigerians experienced a mix of emotions as two young talents of Nigerian descent were in the news for two different reasons.
Kelechi Iheanacho scored the winning goal for English Premier League side Manchester City against Crystal Palace in a 1-0 victory for the Citizens, announcing his arrival on the EPL stage and ensuring that Nigerians have a new hero to get excited about.
The 18-year-old striker’s only previous appearance for the EPL side involved a four minute stint in the club’s 2-0 win over Watford.
On Saturday he came on as a substitute for Ivorian Wilfried Bony with only a few minutes left in the encounter, but only needed 54 seconds to produce a result for Man City, as he did well to tap in a close-range rebound after Alex McCarthy could not hold on to Samir Nasri’s strike.
Inheanacho signed for Manchester City in 2014, from Taye Academy in Nigeria, and has impressed for the team during their pre-season tours of Australia, Vietnam and Germany, where he was involved in five matches, scoring twice.
Many believe that he can now be considered City’s third-choice striker, and coach Manuel Pellegrini revealed that the reason the club did not sign a new striker following Edin Dzeko’s departure to Roma was down to his confidence in the Nigerian youngster to fill the gap and take over as a striker of great worth.
All of this has contributed to the excitement of Nigerian football fans, who have gone through a turbulent period in recent years, enjoying few heroes in the top European leagues despite winning the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2013.
Inheanacho will certainly be expected to carry the hopes of a nation as a promising talent in one of Europe’s top clubs in the English Premier League.
Ibe Chooses England Over Nigeria
From Manchester City to Liverpool, and yet another talented youngster with roots in Nigeria, as Jordan Ibe has been impressing for the Reds in Merseyside. Nigerians were hoping that he would choose to represent the Super Eagles on the international stage, but it seems that he has instead opted to play for England should the opportunity arise.
Ibe is able to play for Nigeria due to his father, who was born in the West African nation, but he player himself was born in England.
The 19-year-old Liverpool winger was called up for the England Under-21 squad in September, but his form in the EPL may see England national team coach Roy Hodgson call him up to the senior squad sooner rather than later.
Many in Nigeria were concerned that Ibe would choose to represent the country of his birth rather than that of his father, and Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh confirmed these fears over the weekend.
On Sunday Oliseh wrote on Twitter: “Jordon Ibe’s family informed me by a telephone call, that he was giving priority to an England call up. We wish them well.”
This news will be a disappointment to many Super Eagles fans, but hopefully the promise that lies within Manchester City’s Inheanacho will serve to soften the blow and excite for the near future.
Source: Peter Pedroncelli, AFK Insider